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No. 18 (May 1957)
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Part 2: Housing and Land Development

In a series of three articles, Mr T. T. Ropiha, Secretary of the Department of Maori Affairs, is giving his views on the position of the modern Maori. Last time, he wrote of the historic causes of the present situation; this time he sketches briefly the part played by his department in coping with the problems. The last installment will deal with future planning.

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A new house is built at Wairahi Station in the Far North: the workers are Umuroa, Rima and Heumate Wiki, from Te Kao. (NPS PHOTOGRAPH)

Traditionally the old-time Maori had little conception of individual ownership of land and houses which were regarded as belonging to the family (in its broad sense) or the community rather than the individual. Fully communal buildings such as meeting houses were symbols of the standing of the community, so work and skill were lavished upon them without stint and they were built for long life. Dwelling places however, were of simple types designed only as shelter from the elements and not with a view to permanency. In those less complicated days, therefore, the building of a dwelling house was a simple matter of rallying kinsmen and friends, gathering materials from the nearby forests, and after a few days working moving into the finished house.

From this simple, easily erected shelter to the

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type of home introduced by the European, serving as a living place for the family group and provided with electric stove, sewerage, title deed, rate payments, mortgages and all the advantages and disadvantages of the modern home, was a revolutionary change. That change which the European made over a period of many centuries, the Maori has had to make in less than a hundred years.

Until the 1920's the Maori generally was able, from the use of his lands or his land revenues, to find the money for the erection of an adequate dwelling to the relatively simple and inexpensive standards ruling for European housing at that period. But as the numbers of Maori owners in Maori lands increase, their shares of the proceeds become less; and at the same time the general housing standards of the community become more elaborate and more costly. The Maori thus

There, in a nut shell, lie the reasons for the special facilities offered for housing by the Department of Maori Affairs.

In about 1937 the Department embarked on the business of home finance and building for Maoris. It began in a small way and during the first year it built 13 houses and purchased 4. Output has fluctuated as a result of the war and other circumstances, but we reached a peak with 527 houses built and 11 purchased. Since the scheme has begun, the Department has built, through private contractors or its own building organisations, 5,218 houses, caried out 1,224 house renovations and financed the purchase of 432 houses or about 40 per cent of the houses occupied at present by the Maoris. Put in other terms, make a city a little smaller than Timaru.

Operations on this scale entail a great deal of expenditure. Our total expenditure in this direction has been slightly under £5,000,000 as at 31–3–35, but our operations pay their way. In connection with this sum, the Department has been repaid £1,700,000 in repayment of principal in addition to the interest charges amounting to £500,000 leaving £3,000,000 to be repaid on houses built during the last 3 or 4 years. So far no loss has been incurred in respect of the expenditure of this large sum. There were only two cases where the Department had to step in and exercise its rights as mortgagee. In both cases the mortgagors had substantial interests in the security, and the Department received the full amounts owing to it.

Our lending basis in practically 98 per cent of the cases is about 90 per cent of the value of the land and building offered as security. In any case the Department does not lend more than £2,000 which is the loan limit irrespective of the value of the security offered. Most of the houses cost somewhere about £2,250. In addition we give a great deal of service not given by other financial agencies—we help to straighten out difficulties of site ownership; we help the Maori to get a site if he does not own one; we act as his legal adviser; and where necessary we act as his agent for the building of the house and organise the actual work of building. However, we make charges for most of these services, and our rates of interest and our general rules of administration are comparable with those applying to Europeans who borrow for housing. What I have said about our lending and building activities and terms, applies to the general run of Maoris. There are two groups who are, in different ways, exceptions to the general rule.

Those on Very Low Incomes

One of these comprises Maoris on very low income—usually Social Security beneficiaries, often with large families to support. These people can not cope with home ownership on our usual terms; but their need is as great as—often greater than—the need of those who can. For them we finance and build specially economical houses to meet in a simple way their family requirements. We take from them a reasonable proportion of their income to cover all their housing outgoings; we look after rates, insurance and maintenance, and apply the rest of the money to our loan. There is usually not enough left to meet all our interests and principal, so the loan banks up. By the time the family no longer need the house the debt may be pretty heavy, and we may have to write off some, but the important thing is that the family has undisturbed use and ownership of the house while it is needed.

Please do not misunderstand the term I have just used, in dealing with our lower income group when I mentioned specially economical houses. By this I mean houses so planned and designed to get all the facilities of a good home for the size of the family, at the lowest cost. I most certainly do not mean any lowering of the standards of workmanship or amenities—that is a thing we will not put up with.

Those Who Can Look After Themselves

The second of the two exceptions to our general housing policy is the group—I am glad to say a steadily increasing group—who have grown up in the European way of life and are able to make their financial and other arrangements for housing on the same footing as their European fellow citizens. To these people we say in varying degrees: “We are very busy helping your kinsmen who cannot look after themselves in housing You can look after yourselves. You must do so and let us concentrate on the others”. Some we send straight over the road to the State Advances Corporation or other lending organisations; some

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we help only with advice; some we assist in straightening out little difficulties and let them carry on from there; some we help with loans but leave them to arrange for the actual building themselves.

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Dave Wiki of Ngataki examines his cream. Ten years ago. Ngataki was an unproductive expanse of sand; now its butterfat production competes with the rest of the Far North. (NPS PHOTOGRAPH)

Land Development

At the very beginning of the investigation as to the best means to be employed in the settlement of Maori lands by Maoris, it was soon found that the root difficulty was the character of the communal title as evolved by the Maori Land Court. In the course of time successions and inter-marriages have congested the titles. The difficulties of titles with its multiple ownership and ponderous methods in getting a title in severalty have always been obstacles in the way of the Maoris obtaining financial aid to farm their own lands.

It was not until 1929—nearly 90 years after the Treaty of Waitangi—that Parliament assumed direct financial responsibility for a policy of encouraging and training the Maoris to become industrious settlers under the Government's direction and supervision. It was the scheme Sir James Carroll, Sir Apirana Ngata, Sir Maui Pomare and Sir Peter Buck and other leaders of the Maori people pleaded for 38 years earlier. The main features of the scheme were these:

1. To overcome delays in difficulties arising from the nature of the land titles, the Minister of Maori Affairs was authorised to bring such lands under the scheme. The difficulties as to title were literally stepped over and the development and settlement of the lands made the prime consideration;
2. The funds for development were provided by the State and were extended under the supervision of Government officers;
3. Private alienation of any land within a scheme was prohibited;
4. The jurisdiction of the Maori Land Court in all matters affecting title of land brought under the scheme other than succession and trusteeship of persons under disability was exercisable only with the consent or at the instance of the appropriate Government Department.

The main aim was the training of Maoris to be efficient farmers in the course of developing their lands and to assist them when they settled down to the business of farming.

The future historian will have to pass judgment on the soundness or otherwise of this far-reaching policy. Those who formulated the policy helped to shape the canoe for its, fateful voyage and heartened them on with cries reminiscent of the old time sea shanties of their race. The Maori knew that he was being driven back to the last stronghold of the culture and individuality of his race and so the policy had an appeal that enlisted the goodwill and self-sacrificing support of Maori leadership and evoked from the rank and file of development workers an enthusiastic and gratifying effort.

On the financial side, this support has been remarkable.

From 1930 to 31st March, 1956, the gross expenditure on Maori land development schemes reached £23 ½ million. The receipts up to that date were £18 million. It will therefore be seen that the debt amounts to £5 ½ million.

Of the total 4,000,000 acres of Maori land, some 2 ½ million acres are estimated to be useable for farming. Of this area, approximately 1,100,140 acres are leased to Europeans, 473,248 acres are under departmental control, 39,000 acres are under control of the Maori Trustee, 498,000 acres are farmed by individual Maoris or by major incorporations, and 460,000 acres are lying idle.

As at the 30th June, 1956, there were 473,248 acres of Maori owned land gazetted under Part XXIV Maori Affairs Act 1953. Of this area, 25,623 acres were embodied in the 1956 development schemes in the course of development, and the balance of 220,625 acres were occupied by 1,351 farmers who are at present under the control of the Department.

The production and the stock carried on all schemes under development unit farms and Maori Trust stations as at the 30–6–56 were as follows:

Bales of wool 7,220

Butterfat produced 4,579,533 lbs.

Total number of sheep carried 297,172

Total number of beef cattle carried 29,676

Number of dairy cows and other dairy stock = total of 65,499

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Cost to the State

Land development is conducted in two stages. The first is the development of the land from its unimproved state up to station stage when sheep and cattle are reared and run for a number of years until the pasture is thoroughly consolidated. During this period of consolidation all the profits that accrue are credited to the scheme in order to ensure that on final settlement by units no loss would be carried by the State.

These stations, with the stock on them, were valued at about £14 million in 1955. The debt to the State at that time was £5 million.

The second stage of land development is settlement of the land by unit farmers. There are at present 1351 unit farms whose total assets are valued at £9 million, and these farmers owe the State £1,390,000.

It is clear from the figures that the assets created far exceed the outstanding debts, that the security is sound and the rate of repayment reasonable.

We should also include with the assets created by Maori Land Development the value of debt-free stations returned to Maori incorporations after development was complete, and the value of several hundred unit farms handed back to settlers after they had repaid their liabilities to the department. The value of such released stations and farms is estimated at over £3 million.

In the twenty-seven years the Maori Land Development Scheme has lasted, there have been some small sums written off as bad debts. However, it should not be forgotten that all lending has been at 1 ½% above the normal lending rate and the proceeds of this extra 1 ½% exceed several times the total written off.

So we may conclude that this scheme, which has been such an inestimable boon to the Maori people, has not been an undue burden on the resources of the Government.


The drowning rate among the Maori people has become so serious that the National Water Safety Committee is launching an all out campaign aimed at impressing the Maori people with the need to take care to prevent water deaths. It is determined to reduce the tragic number of Maori lives, particularly young lives, which are ended each year by drowning.

At the same time the national campaign directed at teaching all New Zealanders water safety continues. The demand for a special Maori campaign has been brought about by the fact that the Maori drowning rate is much higher than the pakeha. Though last summer 24 Maoris were drowned compared to 63 pakehas, when the comparatively small total Maori population is taken into account compared with the large pakeha population, it means that the Maori drowning rate is nearly six times that of the pakeha.


Three Maoris forming a group known as The Maori Trio have just returned to Western Germany after receiving an overwhelmingly rousing reception from audiences at Erfurt, in Eastern Germany, where they performed hakas and traditional Maori action songs.

The leader of the group, Mr Te Waari Ward-Holmes, formerly of Takaka (Golden Bay), and Nelson, said that in the ten days they were in the Soviet-occupied sector, the reaction of the German audiences was so great that the trio was performing twice as long as it anticipated. Its performances were given before the showing of a film.

“We were on stage for 35 minutes for the first house and 40 for the second, making a total of 75 minutes each night,” he said.

The other members of the group are Mr Henare Gilbert, of Waikaremoana, and Mr Te Manu Rawiri Paraki, of Ruatahuna, Urewera Country. Mr Paraki is better known as Mr Patrick Rawiri.

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